It’s the end of a long, stressful, tedious, and expensive process — the pursuit of the coveted American Green Card…permanent residency in the United States. And last Wednesday, Chuan was granted his and a fast track to citizenship (if he wants it). We went to our immigration hearing with our attorney Claudia Arévalo (pictured above) not really knowing what to expect. After months of paperwork, forms, bank statements, tax returns, birth certificates, marriage certificates, affidavits of friendship, affidavits of financial responsibility, over $5,000 in attorney’s fees, filing fees, and medical exams…but the final decision rests with the immigration officer charged with the responsibility of granting or denying your application. And so it’s really luck of the draw who you get. If you get someone who is homophobic or having a bad day, you’re screwed. But it was our lucky day. We got Officer B (name withheld).
We sat in the lobby of the United States Customs and Border Control office nervously awaiting our appointment when the door opened and Chuan’s name was called by a woman in a cobalt blue satin blouse and a beige skirt. It was not an officer’s uniform with gun and taser as I had expected. Was she the officer we were assigned? Claudia was behind us as we walked to the door and whispered, “You’re lucky, she’s nice!” I felt some sense of dread lifting off my shoulders.
Officer B had lived in San Francisco and in the 10 minutes of previewing our case had seen that we were married in SF City Hall. She saw we were first time married, gay, no criminal records or violations of visas. She must have seen that I’m 53. All this added up to the unlikelihood that we were faking a marriage, which is the whole point of this interview…to prove that we are committing fraud and the burden of proof that we are legit is on us.
We dumped on her desk a pile of pictures of the past 3 years of our relationship, along with sworn statements from Simon, Angela and Jeff, and Jean who were either at our wedding or who hosted a wedding reception for us. Then we pulled out a ton of wedding cards, top of the pile being the handmade earth/bicycle wheel watercolor card made by Thom and Alex from the Farm.
It was all enough that Officer B said to us, “You got your green card the minute you walked in the door, but I have to go through with some formalities.” Oh wow. It happened. Officer B just made our lives enormously better. We finished the rest of the interview and she didn’t have to separate us and ask us things like what side of the bed we sleep on and does he have any distinctive moles or birthmarks…that sort of thing.
We walked out of the office back to the lobby within a half hour and flashed Trish, our housemate, the thumbs up. What a RELIEF! I no longer have to have my bank accounts scrutinized, we don’t have to have a million we-fies on the blog to prove our relationship. It’s over, done, finished. Glory hallelujah. Justice is, on rare occasions, done in America.
Later on we had a party at the Tucson Racquet Club. I texted the guests in advance that we would announce the decision at the party in the color of our scarves. Green for “got the green card” or black. Then the guests started arriving up the stairs and immediately checking our scarves. Alex arrived with a single green balloon and a look of worry on her face as she rushed to us. I heard her mutter, “Are they wearing green? Oh thank God!” The look of fear turned to relief and she threw her arms around us. Practically all our neighbors and friends came. They’ve all grown fond of Chuan and perhaps not seeing me be lonely and miserable.
We ordered drinks and the party grew to about 20. We made a small speech about what this meant to us and to thank all of our supporters (and you dear readers who couldn’t attend) for the help all along the way.
It was truly a celebratory evening. Love prevailed. Chuan gets to stay in America. I get to keep my hubby by my side. Thanks goes to all the people in this country who voted and ultimately installed a reasonable Supreme Court that ruled in favor of marriage equality. Thank you to all who encouraged, loved, wrote checks, and helped us get through this trying time.
Now we can just be normal Americans…should we choose such a fate. Yikes.